Setting early benchmarks as City host Fleetwood Town

Bradford City vs Fleetwood Town match preview

@Valley Parade on Tuesday 21 August, 2012

By Rob Craven

Bradford City and Valley Parade host their first competitive action of the 2012/13 season tonight, and what a place to start the away travels for the newly promoted Fleetwood Town.

Much has been made of Fleetwood Town’s rise up to the Football League and the expectation, like Crawley before them, is to continue their form and be making their mark on League One football this time next year.

The excitement of the first home game of the season is something that cannot be easily matched, as we all become reacquainted with our stadium and team for the next ten months. Like the first day back at school after the summer holidays, there will be nerves and apprehension amongst the fans come 7.45pm, and the new-look City side will want to stamp their authority as early as possible.

As the teams enter the cauldron that is Valley Parade to a sea of claret and amber (Friends of Bradford City FC will have members stationed around various parts of the ground pre-match, where fans will be able to fill in membership forms, pay the £5 Amber membership fee and collect their free FoBCFC Claret and Amber scarf), the home contingent will be looking to continue their excellent home form from the latter half of the 2011/12 season. Meanwhile the Cod Army will be looking to kick start their season by making a big splash and further dampening some of our pre-season optimism.

Saturday saw City take on a Gillingham side in the sweltering heat, in a game that could just as easily have gone the Bantams’ way as it did the Gills. Compared to the nightmare opening fixtures of the past (Stevenage comes to mind) there were a hell of a lot of positives to take from the game and the result certainly made for worse reading than the performance granted.

So, what is different this time around? We look good from the defence right through to the strikers. The only weak link on Saturday was Garry Thompson, who looked isolated out on the wing. Defence wise James Meredith and Stephen Darby were solid, with Meredith in particular mopping up anything that came his way. The midfield was controlled by Gary Jones who was strong and assured; something I haven’t seen to such an extent in the centre of the park for quite some time. Up front James Hanson and Alan Connell both looked good and the addition of Nahki Wells will cause any League Two defences problems this season.

Nicky Mellon’s Fleetwood Town arrive at the division’s third longest serving club following a 0-0 draw with Torquay on Saturday which saw the Cod Army do everything but score. They are expected to push on and be front runners in the division this season, and they will require some big performances from the likes of Northern Irish International Damien Johnson if they are to succeed on their first away day of the season.

Following the frustration in Kent on Saturday, Parkinson will again keep a settled side with little change. After conceding three goals I am intrigued to see if Matt Duke will be replaced by Jon McLaughlin, but would feel this to be harsh considering the nature of all of the goals on Saturday.

The City defence should all maintain their starting places after impressive displays by all at the weekend. Meredith and Darby were both as assured as any of our full backs from last season and Luke Oliver and Rory McArdle should be rewarded with the first home start of the season. Davies, however, is knocking on the door following his substitute appearance as a striker on Saturday.

Gary Jones will be the first name on the team sheet whilst he is fit this season, and it will be who partners up with him that will cause most debate amongst City fans. Will Atkinson played a somewhat silent partner role on Saturday; supporting where he needed to without being too outstanding. Rumours were circulating on Saturday that Ritchie Jones’ injury is ligament-related and therefore it could be a long while until we see that partnership develop, so I would expect Atkinson to continue in the centre of the park.

Kyel Reid will start again on Tuesday with the aim of terrorising the Fleetwood fullbacks. Following his debut as sub, Zavon Hines may be chosen over Thompson to partner Reid as Phil Parkinson will look to find some balance in the side and give us more attacking options.

Looking to link up, up front Connell and Hanson should start the game again as Connell was particularly impressive at Gillingham with his strength and desire to be first to every ball that came his way. Although Nahki’s impressive performance from the bench on Saturday will give him all the ammunition he needs to be in the starting eleven.

The second game of the season will be just as tough as the first for the Bantams, and Parkinson will be looking to convert his frustration following the defeat at Gillingham into a positive outcome on Tuesday night. With AFC Wimbledon up next for the Bantams on Saturday Phil and his men will be looking to get off to a home flyer in front of an excited and hungry crowd, so that any early benchmarks set are good ones.

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